Venus Williams has won almost everything that’s important in tennis — Grand Slam titles, Olympic gold medals.
Now, she has a World Team Tennis championship. And even a WTT Finals MVP.
The seven-time Grand Slam singles champion made the difference in helping the Washington Kastles extend their winning streak to 32 matches in a 20-19 WTT championship victory over the Sacramento Capitals on a perfect Sunday afternoon before a crowd of 1,276 at Family Circle Stadium.
The magic number was five for Venus in this championship weekend. A night after winning the last five games of the match in singles to give the Kastles the Eastern Conference title against New York, she outdid herself in the WTT final.
With the team score tied at 19 as women’s singles was deadlocked at 4, Williams raised her game to win the last five points of a decisive tiebreaker for a 5-2 victory over the Capitals’ big-serving Coco Vandeweghe. That gave Williams a 5-4 win over Vandeweghe, but more importantly gave the Kastles the point they needed to win a second straight WTT title.
That also lifted the Kastles to within two wins of breaking the Los Angeles Lakers’ record for consecutive victories for a major sports francise.
“It can’t get any closer than that, baby,” was the way league co-founder Billie Jean King described the WTT final.
When the match was on the line, Williams pulled her big strokes in a bit to make sure she didn’t give the title away. The Kastles were depending on her.
“Team tennis goes by so fast that I had to make an adjustment when I couldn’t get my backhand over the net,” she said.
There’s one thing for sure, Williams loves team tennis. “I’ve played WTT the last 12 years. I told Billie Jean that I’m here for life. I want a cane,” she joked.
After Williams fell behind 2-0 in the decisive tiebreaker with a pair of errors, Vandeweghe gave away the next three points, including a double fault on the fourth point as Williams took charge.
“The double fault was a mental error by me that shouldn’t happen,” Vandeweghe said. “But Venus played well. A lot of times it comes down to missing an opportunity at 3-3 in a tiebreaker.”
In the mixed doubles match that preceded women’s singles, Williams also came up big with Leander Paes. The Kastles trailed in the team score, 13-10, when Sacramento’s Kevin Anderson/Vandeweghe/Mark Knowles trio won the first two games of mixed doubles.
Williams and Paes battled back, with Williams holding serve to get to 4-4 and force a tiebreaker that the Washington pair also won by taking five straight points after dropping the first point. That evened the team score at 15 with only women’s singles left.
“Venus had the whole weight of the team on her shoulders,” Washington singles ace Bobby Reynolds acknowledged. “She won women’s doubles, mixed and singles.”
Reynolds, the regular-season men’s MVP, suffered a 5-3 loss to Anderson in men’s singles, and then he teamed with Paes in a 5-2 loss to Anderson and Knowles. Those two wins, around a 5-1 victory by Williams and Anastasia Rodionova over Yasmin Schnack and Asia Muhammad in women’s doubles, enabled Western Conference champion Sacramento to take an 11-10 advantage into halftime.
Sunday’s crowd lifted the total attendance for the three-day event to approximately 4,500.